The Early Days

I was born in Zimbabwe. My parents were cattle ranchers. Mum’s parents came out to what was then Southern Rhodesia when she was 2 years old leaving behind the wreck of post Second World War England and on Dad’s side – we’re 6 generations in Africa. Despite being raised in the midst of a civil war I look back on my childhood as being positively idyllic. The ranch was far from any town and so life was about being bare-foot kids running around in the bush, surrounded by farm life, wild animals, our horses and endless hours of hunting, fishing and being absolutely carefree.

Initially, Mum schooled me ‘on the air’ – we literally had school on the radio assisted with a pack of teaching aides that we had to collect from the post office once a week. I then went off to boarding school at the ripe old age of 7 and I first became clearly aware of my artistic talent at the age of 10. Mrs Barnard was my teacher – very strict she was too. However despite her no-nonsense approach I really liked her. Studying the Crusades, we had to draw a knight in chainmail with his sword and armour and his flag. It was this drawing, which miraculously I still remember clearly, that got her attention. From then on I was aware that I had this ‘art thing’ and that I was good at it.

The Middle Bit

I have a clear memory of my dad, John Tolmay teaching me about the direction of light and its influence on surfaces – by drawing a tea cup. I will always associate an ellipse with my Dad. Of course there were his drawings and early paintings and sculptures around the house and so there was an awareness of art around me but it was not until I got to High School at Girls College in Bulawayo that I came to see myself as an artist and that my path was laid out in front of me. Peggy Lendrum and Ian Morgan-Davis guided me through those 6 years with much patience and kindness and I will always remember those years in the art room at Girls College with much fondness. With that, it was off to Technikon Natal in Durban to study Graphic Design.

So why Graphic Design and not Fine Art? Simply put, Mum and Dad didn’t want me to be a poor starving artist and Graphic Design was a safer bet. And they were right. After all we lived in the newly independent Zimbabwe where it was hard enough just to find art materials let alone travel to art shows and with little or no resources for marketing and communicating like we have today, it was the right choice. My art always found a way into the Graphics and my ability to draw has served my design career very well. It was evident in the very first logo I designed for Carousel in Bulawayo to the extensive number of wine labels I had under my charge in New Zealand and every other discipline in between. Whether it’s branding, layout, 3D visualisation, illustration or hand-drawn typography, the art has always been there.

Where I Am Now

I now live on a little farm in France. Three successful design businesses later, working with hundreds of clients from all over the world has brought me to a quieter place in my life where I am now reigniting my art and taking on other design choices. My first pieces of wildlife art have sold and I received my first commissions. My portraits of African people are selling and I have commissions for new pieces. I am still designing and exploring other disciplines like custom print processes. I love the outdoors and getting into the backcountry for a bit of skiing, climbing and either road or mountain biking.

I still love the delicious thrill of designing a beautiful new brand mark and supporting marketing tools and materials. I still love working through complex strategies and bringing a brand to life either in physical materials or through online channels. 3D visualisation has opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me and I continue to explore that further but it is the painting and the drawing that I still love the most. That is my happy place. That is where I am most at peace and hope to spend more and more time there. Let’s see where that knight in shining armour and those tea cup ellipses take me this time.